Judith Curry on ‘dogma’ and ideology

Prof. Judith Curry has been the subject of a large degree of blogospheric talk recently. She has her own site here where the last week or so has seen considerable discussion of the ‘IPCC dogma’ or ideology. I would recommend people who haven’t followed to read essentially all of her posts in November to follow this since I’m not going to give a detailed summary here. Curry’s posts have essentially boiled down to the fact that the IPCC “insiders” have acted as dogmatic or as ideologues.

Unfortunately, Judith’s definitions (and the array of comments) of what this looks like are so broad that signing petitions on climate change, a professional society agreeing with the IPCC, or educating people who don’t have an opinion qualifies to make the “IPCC side” a dogma. The notion is that the “insiders” (whatever this means) have a case of the absence of doubt, intolerance of debate, appeal to authority, a desire to convince others of the ideological “truth”, or a willingness to punish those that don’t concur. The hundreds of comments generated in the discussion at her site by now have ranged from various degrees of extremes on what exactly qualifies under the definition of ideology. My aim with this post is only to offer some incomplete thoughts and a groundwork for which discussion can proceed, since much of the discrepancies in views come from varying premises rather than different conclusions.

I think there’s a lot of misconception on this issue and I see no evidence that Judith is thinking clearly with respect to her claims about the IPCC. Much of the debate has centered around semantics and definitions, so I want to start off with what many people take as “sides” to the debate, particularly when saying things like “the IPCC view” or identifying what a “skeptic” means. Much of the confusion is centered directly on how the scientific community comes to acquire knowledge on a specific topic, or how knowledge of global climate change has evolved.

The fourth assessment report of the IPCC consisted of three volumes of work, on the scale of ~1000 pages each, with the goal of summarizing research in the areas of the physical science, impacts, and policy of climate change. The AR4 does not represent original research, and so to begin with what Judith and other commenter’s refer to as the “IPCC view” is in reality the aggregate work done by the community in whatever sub-topic is being discussed, expressed as a summary of the “balance of evidence.” This cannot involve a static world view by definition, but will necessarily be modified as the community does more research and new or better understanding arises. If this were not the case, no need for an AR5 would exist. I also say ‘subtopics’ because the IPCC consists of thousands of “claims” ranging across various chapters, and with varying degrees of certainty. The WG1 alone directly involves research from the sea level, glaciology, paleoclimate, radiative transfer, temperature observation, modeling, etc communities and obviously in many cases these people will not interfere with each other. An expert on detection and attribution is probably not going to be talking about observations of sea level rise.

Perhaps we’re made to believe it’s only the central claims that is being argued as dogmatic (such as in the summary for policy makers) or the detection and attribution stuff linking anthropogenic causation to temperature increases, but this never becomes clear. This isn’t just being picky; by ignoring the complexity of what the IPCC discusses and lumping it into a single view, you cause people who aren’t interested in the discussion to look at the IPCC as the “pro-AGW camp,” which then artificially distinguished this from the “skeptics” which we are to presume are the “anti-IPCC” camp. This does an injustice to skepticism, but also to what the IPCC does.

Secondly, a clearer picture needs to be made when we say “AGW theory.” There is no such theory, and the categorization (at least in my experience) allows for a wide degree of interpretations, accusations, and straw man attacks. The label allows for a complete mischaracterization of what the science says, but more importantly it loosely defines to what extent new conclusions (such as lower or higher sensitivity, or higher or lower observed sea ice retreat compared to models) become consistent with “AGW theory.” For example, is a sensitivity of 0.5 degree per 2x CO2 consistent with “the theory?” 3 degrees? 10 degrees? Do more or less hurricanes in the future become (in)compatible with the theory? What about El Nino behavior in the future? Clearly, we don’t want all of these sorts of questions to be subjective interpretations on what constitutes compatibility, or the need to introduce letters such as ‘CAGW’. Once we label it as ‘catastrophic’ we’re less in the domain of physical theory and in the domain of interpretation, or just name-calling and straw man attacks. A basic understanding of the science and the ability to logically collect and interpret information goes a long way here.

A more complete description is that ‘AGW’ is a consequence of various theories in physics. The theories of radiative transfer are relevant not just for warming, but for understanding the atmospheres of stars, for Mars, or interpreting satellite images taken from space. There’s a high degree of thermodynamics and physical principles involved, such as the conservation of energy. CO2 increases involve an absolute necessity to force the outgoing longwave energy escaping Earth to go down for a fixed T. The total energy balance depends on all forcings too, not just CO2, but CO2 is the most readily capable agent to cause large change in the near future. The sun changes only too slow or too small to make much of an impact for the centennial timescales many people are interested in, volcanoes express a significant surface impact only for short times, and other greenhouse gases have been relatively secondary in importance and there’s no reason to suspect that will change. Even to the extent that climate sensitivity is low, CO2 can still triple or quadruple eventually and so it’s tough to see an alternative to not causing a large degree of warming in the future if fossil fuels aren’t cut down.

It is of course a value judgment to determine whether 3 degrees of warming is meaningless to your life. But it should be kept in mind that science is not just an isolated tool to advance knowledge for its own sake and reject bad hypotheses. To some extent a lot of knowledge is purely academic, such as studying what happens in a model when you remove all the CO2 from the air, but science can and should serve as a support for policy. It can and should serve as support for everyday people. Medical research is an obvious example. A petroleum geologist telling you to look for oil here and not over there is not dogma; it’s education and advising. A doctor telling you what a bad vs. a good diet looks like is not him pushing his dogma of health science. Expertise is valuable and it matters, and people treating climate science differently is just absurdly odd. Atmospheric science has become so relevant to people’s lives, and not just climate change, but in conversations of the daily weather. The ozone issue is an example. In the mid-century, nuclear testing was done in the stratosphere with the thought being that the air was so stably stratified and would not readily mix with air lower down, yet science showed that in fact this happened all the time. This can be accomplished easily for example by forming a frontal zone t not at the surface but at the tropopause. This knowledge should be given to policy makers. Of course we can’t tell you that the technique of blowing off bombs in the stratosphere would be morally wrong without getting into some philosophy, but as Raymond Pierrehumbert said in connection with the possibility of a runaway greenhouse happening on Earth, “No doubt Pielke Jr., and maybe Judy Curry, would think I’m making a value judgement [sic] outside my purview as a scientist when I say I think it would be a bad thing for the Earth to turn into Venus, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that anyway.”

As for “skepticism,” it’s an unfortunate circumstance that the label has inherently been given a bad name on the blogs. This isn’t because of intolerance toward debate as much as the large number of people who criticize the science, or even declare conspiracies and fraud, with an apparent willingness to mislead or ignorance of the subject. THIS EXISTS. It’s not dogmatic to point that out. It’s not dogmatic to point out that people like Pat Michaels or Tim Ball or Chris Monckton have lied to people, or that institutions exist to undermine credibility with no cares for advancing the science. Thus the term “denier” has formed. What’s more, it’s very easy to separate these type of people from a legitimate scientific skeptic, or a curious student, from the mere structure and flow of the argument upon casual inspection. Skepticism is healthy for science, but in no reasonable context can it be defined as the relentless rejection of any body of evidence that goes against your preconceived notions. To be blunt, while one can certainly see emotionalized references to polar bears drowning, or misattribution of a heat wave to climate change (particularly moreso in the public sector than in the scientific community), the type of behavior of denialism described above is very one-sided in this ‘debate.’ I find no reason not to equate this with creationism, an ideology formed not to advance biological science, but to defend a certain interpretation of a theological viewpoint at all costs.
Some claims, like “the greenhouse effect doesn’t exist” are just pure fantasy. But in general, separating a skeptic from a denialist is not about the claim as much as the process of reaching the conclusion and the willingness to modify that conclusion. Those that argue for a low climate sensitivity are often perceived to be more ‘skeptical’ than ‘denialistic’ for instance, but I don’t think the claim is inherently relevant. Rather, some people have to tap-dance a lot to argue for a low sensitivity, and seem to only cite their work while ignoring a large collection of evidence to the contrary. I don’t see how this is inherently beneficial to scientific progress.

Meanwhile, there are many interesting debates to be had within the scientific community. Climate sensitivity is one of them, but in a much different context than whether it’s “catastrophic” or not. There are many topics to be ‘skeptical’ about, one of which is the degree to which anthropogenic perturbations has or will modify hurricane patterns. It’s important to realize that the structure of this “AGW theory” is not a stack of cards that is one publication away from being broken. There are endless components to what we call ‘climate change.’ On the flipside, it took over half a century to convince the scientific community that changes in CO2 could even be a significant player in climate change, to say nothing of whether humans would or could modify its concentration. Arrhenius is often described as quantifying this first in 1896 but the fact is that he was an outlier for a considerable amount of time.

Finally, we’re going to be endlessly stuck at a cross-roads if discussion is stifled. Judith apparently thinks this is occurring, but a glance into the refereed literature clearly shows this is not the case. This is, whether you like it or not, the avenue by which new ideas need to be forwarded. We’re also going to be stuck at a cross-road if you perceive the progression toward unanimous agreement by the informed as a sign of dogma as opposed to robustness of the conclusion.

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53 responses to “Judith Curry on ‘dogma’ and ideology

  1. I understand she is not writing her essays for a scientific journal, but I still find it astounding that a career scientist has so little regard for definition of terms and presentation of evidence.

    And in terms of her stated goal of building bridges and reestablishing trust, the terms she has chosen to bandy about could not be more inflammatory.

    But still, hundreds of comments a day, so she must be right!

  2. Chris Colose, you write:

    “What’s more, it’s very easy to separate these type of people from a legitimate scientific skeptic, or a curious student, from the mere structure and flow of the argument upon casual inspection. ”

    In my opinion, in your many articulate comments at Curry’s blog, you have not done much in the way of identifying “legitimate scientific skeptics” and engaging their arguments.

    It may be that you look at that cohort of commenters, and don’t see any people who meet the description. If that’s the case, the term “legitimate scientific skeptic” probably means quite different things to you and me. Is there an example of a skeptic who would qualify?

  3. This entire business about scientists being ideological and getting too involved in political advisory is very convoluted on that blog. The actions of meaning of how scientists, or groups of scientists, interact with the public is not all that complicated. For instance, it is not ideological to advise that society reduce or sequester emissions if we would like to avoid possible problems in the future. This is a basic fact based on the evidence we have in hand and the lack of scientific alternatives for mitigation and adaption. The next step up would be advising on how to reduce emissions. This is the category that Hansen would fit into, but not many scientists really get involved in asking for specific policies. . To be ideological, a scientist or association would need to align their policy with some other group of ideals, philosophy, or comprehensive vision; ie conforming a policy with Marxism and using emissions policies to fight the bourgeois, or else dump policies that do not fit in with the overall political goals. This isn’t even Hansen. He has changed his policy ideas several times of the last few decades. How she came up with this mish-mash of feedback loops and all this other stuff makes for great theater, but it hardly a cure for whatever ails the science.

  4. Hi Chris – Here are some scattered thoughts on the matter.

    First, I’ve folllowed your career with great admiration since we first encountered each other on MySpace some years ago. Your rational, well-informed, and almost always accurate assessments of climate science (in my opinion) deserve enormous praise and emulation. With that preface, I hope you’ll forgive me for offering some advice based on experience with blogosphere arguments, where no-one can be guaranteed to have the last word. Don’t come across as intemperate and indignant in responding to foolish statements by others, even if you have a right to be. The published literature is about science, but the blogosphere is an unhealthy mixture of politics with occasional bits of science. Ideology aside, uninformed audiences don’t judge politicians by whether they are right (how would they know?) but by whether they offer what comes across as authoritative commentary in a manner that seems unfailingly reasonable, respectful, and even-tempered, which is why Monckton is such a master of blogosphere argumentation. That principle requires us to refrain from appearing to exhibit a sense of superiority, while at the same time offering superior arguments. It’s tough. I often fail to follow my own advice, but that doesn’t stop me from giving it.

    Regarding Curry’s blog, I felt some optimism when I first started reading it, but that is rapidly evaporating. I had hoped that she would foster engagement between mainstream science and the heterogeneous universe of “skeptics” by a willingness to challenge assertions on all sides. That hasn’t happened. She has been severe in denouncing what she perceives to be IPCC transgressions and “dogma”, which she believes resides in selective emphasis on published data that support consensus views on global warming, combined with an unjustified uncertainty about the correctness of those views (I disagree but that’s beside the pont). What she has not done is to challenge with equal rigor and specificity the numerous skeptic claims that appear on her site. The result is that the contrarians have flocked to the site, legitimate and knowledgeable scientists have mostly stayed away, and her blog is morphing into one more contrarian blog added to the dozens that already abound on the Web. Once her celebrity status fades, her blog will therefore add little impact to what is already available. If that happens, I believe she can and should be safely ignored – an outcome I envision with regret because it could have been different.

    One of the fundamental premises underlying her posts is the notion that there is currently insufficient engagement between the mainstream and skeptics. Reinforcing a point you make, I see that as profoundly untrue, but to realize why, one must know where the engagement occurs – in the published literature. There, to my knowledge, no skeptical claims deserving attention fail to get published eventually, and many undeserving ones are also published. A salient recent example was LC09, which was published in GRL despite so many disastrous flaws that the authors, in LC10 (submitted to JGR), were forced to retract many of the earlier claims. An author with less prestige than Lindzen would have failed to get LC09 into the journals (except possibly Energy and Environment) and would have been better off as a result. Even Miskolczi mananged to get published, although it took submission to a Hungarian meteorology journal for that to happen. We could go on and on with published skepticism from Spencer, Douglass, Svensmark, etc. – all of whom have something useful to say, but overreach when they try to imply that their data undermines current AGW concepts.

    One final point in this scattered commentary. The vast majority of climate myths perpetrated by the Web contrarians have been adequately refuted in multiple venues, but there is one that seems to be uncritically accepted by many individuals who interpret the wealth of climate data as supporting the consensus view. That is the notion that there is no value in “appeal to authority”. You touched on that point in your post, but let me elahorate. Current mainstream conclusions about climate have the weight of authority from tbousands of scientists based on very active investigation, challenges, and rechallenges over many decades. In these circumstances, how often is the consensus view offered by the authorities likely to be wrong? As evicence, we can refer to Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Evolution, or even Plate Tectonics as examples of principles that appear to be well validated after such a long interval of active investigation (and of course, Newtonian Mechanics from an earlier era is also valid but has simply been modified by Relativity and QM, not discredited). Armed with this evidence, how does “authority” affect the probability that consensus views of climate will prove reasonably accurate (with of course refinements over time)? This is basically a problem in Bayesian statistics, and the short answer is that the probability that those views are accurate, based only on how any one of us interprets the supporting evidence, is enhanced by the track record of authority opinion, as long as that record shows authorities to be right more than 50 percent of the time. Specifically, the notion that if authorities are sometimes wrong, their views are unhelpful, is simply false. They merely must be right more often than wrong to add weight to current interpretations.

  5. Brandon Shollenberger

    Chris Colose, the comments I have read from you are a strange mixture of true and valid points combined with obviously untrue and ridiculous claims. It’s amazing. Here are a few random examples from this post of yours:

    Response: Hi Brandon. See Responses below–chris

    Unfortunately, Judith’s definitions (and the array of comments) of what this looks like are so broad that signing petitions on climate change, a professional society agreeing with the IPCC, or educating people who don’t have an opinion qualifies to make the “IPCC side” a dogma.

    Judith Curry has in no way said educating people is bad. I have no idea where you get this from.

    Response: Well, she has for example responded to Professor Mandia saying “…This group feels strongly that science and politics can’t be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists. . . People who’ve already dug their heels in, we’re not going to change their opinions. We’re trying to reach people who may not have an opinion or opinion based on limited information” by saying “Sounds like the IPCC/UNFCCC ideology again; actually the changing minds part qualifies them for consideration as an ideologue…” I’m sorry, but that’s called education.

    You may have a different view on this, but unfortunately, she has made it impossible for someone to publicly defend and communicate any aspect of the so-called “AGW theory” in general without being accused of defending an alleged “dogma”. I really don’t see a way around this from her posts–chris

    The AR4 does not represent original research, and so to begin with what Judith and other commenter’s refer to as the “IPCC view” is in reality the aggregate work done by the community in whatever sub-topic is being discussed, expressed as a summary of the “balance of evidence.”

    Here you dismiss the idea of there being an “IPCC view,” based on the idea the IPCC fairly summarizes things. This is demonstrably false. While some, perhaps even most, of the IPCC reports are made fairly, it is common knowledge at least some portions of them are not anything resembling a fair summary of evidence. Given that such biases are known to exist in the IPCC, the reason for your dismissal doesn’t fit.

    Response: Sorry, I’m not convinced.

    Thus the term “denier” has formed. What’s more, it’s very easy to separate these type of people from a legitimate scientific skeptic, or a curious student, from the mere structure and flow of the argument upon casual inspection.

    This is a fascinating comment. Many people would dispute it. Personally, I’m inclined to agree with it. That’s what makes the current situation so ridiculous. If it is so easy to tell a “skeptic” from a “denier,” why are so many skeptics consistently dismissed out-of-hand? Why are their arguments ignored or mocked?

    Response: Thanks, actually I was thinking in my head of a lot of justification for my statement about the differences, but I think it’s for another post on its own. To the point, I see no evidence of this mockery or suppression, at least not within the domain of typical scientific dialogue (i.e., submission and response in the refereed literature). The stuff that is easily swept under the rug are the type of two second talking points that you’d see on a site like “Skeptical Science” and these are very easy to identify.

    Part of my statement is that I may tend to think of ‘skeptic’ in much broader terms than others. The problem is very little effort is given to communicate in the literature, with the pickings very small (Lindzen, Spencer,…). The blogosphere has even opened up a venue for these people to say things which aren’t quite wacky but significantly are beyond the scope of what they would be able to justify in a paper. But to answer AMacs question, I cannot offhand think of a single scientific skeptic that disagrees with the core tenants (e.g., the stuff in a SPM in the WG1) of AGW– chris

    The biggest example obviously comes from the hockey stick controversy. The reason Steve McIntyre started his blog was he got attacked for daring to question the IPCC’s view on paleoclimatology, a view which was based on one paper with novel results (hardly a fair summary of anything).

    Response: SteveM is a fascinating case in that he doesn’t say too many things that can put him in a category of the sorts we’re talking about. Personally, l I think he’s just someone who likes to make a lot of noise, and he’s had far less contribution to the actual advancement of any science than people would like to think. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy the ‘innocent bystander trying to come to the truth and I’ve become the victim instead’ card he plays. He has become the direct feeding ground of a lot of misinterpretation of climategate (e.g., the significance of ‘hide the decline’).

    Frustrating to me is that he tends to miss the whole forest by zooming in 10000x onto one tree branch in the distance. He made a whole party about correcting a year of GISTEMP data, moving a couple of years around in the U.S record and not changing much in the global record. This is something that in science is a ‘thanks, fixed’ thing but in the world of SteveM requires endless blogging and provided the support for endless and mindless babble about its importance. The entire importance of the existence or non-existence of a ‘MWP’ has been similarly lost in his ramblings, regardless of the merits of his criticisms– the few of which that have actually been published I feel have been sufficiently addressed in the literature as a response rather than ‘ignored’ even if disagreement persists– chris

    More recently, we have no climate scientists admitting Mann’s misuse of Tiljander data in his recent temperature reconstruction. In fact, a number have defended it, in no small part by dismissing and insulting those who criticize it.

    Or we could look farther back. Why did nobody condemn Phil Jones for responding to Warwick Hughes asking for data so he could resolve a problem he had with Jones’ work by saying, “We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.”

    Response– Sorry, this is a legitimate point; the type of availability and reproducibility scientists are used to is not the sort of attacks that various bloggers have engaged in.– chris

    You say it is easy to distinguish “skeptics” from “deniers,” presumably to defend what approach has been taken, but whether or not this is easy, it isn’t being done.

    Finally, we’re going to be endlessly stuck at a cross-roads if discussion is stifled. Judith apparently thinks this is occurring, but a glance into the refereed literature clearly shows this is not the case.

    There are a number of documented examples of bias affecting what papers do and do not get published. That some work gets published in no way shows no discussions are being stifled.

    In all the comments of yours I have read, I’ve seen a consistent pattern. You seem to be painting a rosy picture of how climate scientists have behaved while being dismissive to those who criticize them. In a post on Curry’s site you basically mocked people for focusing on 12 year old work, even though exact same criticisms are leveled at Mann’s work from 2008.

    I don’t know if this is just a lack of knowledge on various issues, but the bias in your comments is obvious and misleading.

  6. Pingback: Science, dissent, polarization and ideology « My view on climate change

  7. Brandon – You state, “There are a number of documented examples of bias affecting what papers do and do not get published. That some work gets published in no way shows no discussions are being stifled.

    If you mean that some papers are rejected by one or another particular journal although they deserve publication, I agree with you, and indeed, some editorial bias may play a role. However, if you are claiming that deserving papers don’t get published in some available science journal within a reasonably short timeframe, then I would submit that you are wrong. In fact, I see the opposite happening – papers with a skeptical bent often appear to be published despite disqualifying flaws, perhaps in an attempt to “lean over backwards” to appease the skeptics. In other words, it works both ways, but deserving papers do eventually end up in the journals. This is often true in other fields of science as well, and is not limited to climate science.

    As someone familiar with both the literature and the claims in the blogosphere, I would argue that it is impossible to find in the blogosphere an article that clearly undermines important tenets of mainstream climate science despite failing to gain publication, and which cannot easily be demolished by an objective application of evidence and logic. If you have an example of the latter, I would be eager to know about it.

  8. Chris Colose,

    Your response to Brandon Shollenberger supra covers many points thoughtfully. (Unfortunately, the RealClimate-style insertion of your remarks so disrupts the flow of Shollenberger’s essay that it is made almost unreadable.)

    A couple of questions. You say,

    The stuff that is easily swept under the rug are the type of two second talking points that you’d see on a site like “Skeptical Science” and these are very easy to identify.

    I think you mean that “Skeptical Science” can quickly and definitively debunk many wilder “skeptical” claims. I think this is true. I nonetheless found the site most deficient in the areas where I am most familiar with the science, e.g. #18, “Hockey stick is broken”.

    The scientifically-literate skeptics’ (“lukewarmer’s”) argument isn’t akin to “All contrarian assertions deserve the full attention of the climatology community.” That would be a straw man. The cited #18 deepens my concern: “Climatology accepts weak arguments, if and only if they support the Pro-AGW Consensus.”

    to answer AMac’s question, I cannot offhand think of a single scientific skeptic that disagrees with the core tenets… of AGW.

    Alas, that is not responsive to my question, which was prompted by your discussion of people you regard as “legitimate scientific skeptics.” This is a class of people that is easy to identify, you say, based on casual inspection of the structure and flow of their arguments. Yet as far as I know, it is also an empty set. I asked you to populate it, from amongst the commenters at Curry’s blog. The follow-up question is obvious: do those individuals believe that their concerns have gotten a fair hearing from the established, mainstream field of climatology?

    Fair warning: if you were to pick me, my response to the follow-on would be, “No.”

    Response: It’s not an empty set, it’s just not a set worth talking about because it’s precisely the mainstream scientific view. You don’t go out and look for a legitimate scientific skeptic; it’s what every decent scientist does when a potentially new and interesting idea comes out, or when they have a hypothesis, or when a new study is not necessarily in accordance with previous work. Furthermore, when you sit a hundred reasonable and informed people in a room they are going to disagree on things. That’s life.

    Part of rational skepticism is understanding the relevance and importance of a new result, or how robust that result is likely to be in the face of previous work (such as if a new study says that climate sensitivity is 15 degrees C per doubling, it’s very unlikely to convince anyone in the field because there’s not really any room to make it that high with observations. It takes familiarity with the field in question to build up this type of understanding. Scientists are likely to be skeptical when a result is too data-set dependent for example. That the globe is warming is an expectation from theory and has been borne out, being robust to observations of surface stations, radiosondes, satellites, glacier melt, sea level rise, ocean heat content, changes in heat wave/drought characteristics, northward displacement of species, etc and with many independent teams looking at this. However, if a paper comes out which uses a re-analysis product to say that the water vapor feedback is negative (e.g., Paltridge), it’s likely to be met with much more skepticism- not because people don’t like the result but because those familiar with re-analysis products know they aren’t very good for evaluating water vapor trends, it disagrees with other re-analysis products, it doesn’t agree with satellite-based observations, or many independent estimates of climate sensitivity and theory. Part of what the “internet skeptics” can’t understand is that reproducibility and robustness doesn’t mean redoing everything someone else did, it means converging lines of evidence pointing to a similar conclusion.

    Another part of the ‘empty set’ issue is that while plenty of debate and need for new research exists in the scientific community, the broad questions the public is interested in are ‘does man influence the climate?’ or ‘how has climate changed in the past?’ or ‘how does the brain work?’ or ‘is evolution real?’ and at least the basics to these questions are overwhelming in their evidence. So the public only sees this view and a small collection of people denying the answers to them; they don’t actually see that the people answering those questions disagree themselves on the much more technical details, giving the false impression of what the ‘debate’ actually is. It’s still a large problem of how scientists communicate vs. how everyone else communicates.–chris

  9. Chris Colose, two points.

    (1) On skepticism, I think you’ve moved the goalposts. You observed that it is easy to distinguish “legitimate scientific skeptics” from “deniers” based on casual inspection of the structure and flow of their arguments. I asked for an example, perhaps from among the many articulate commenters at Curry’s blog: who do you view as a legitimate scientific skeptic?

    Your response supra is “It’s not an empty set, it’s just not a set worth talking about because it’s precisely the mainstream scientific view.” In other words, the set of “legitimate scientific skeptics” is for all intents and purposes a subset of the set of credentialed, professionally-employed climate scientists. Presumably the subset comprises nearly all of the members of the set — by your re-definition, it’s hard to see how a decent climate scientist could be excluded.

    I think this is a roundabout way of stating, “As far as AGW-related issues, I know of no legitimate scientific skeptics who are not professional climate scientists. Further, all decent professional climate scientists are legitimate scientific skeptics.”

    Is that a fair paraphrase? It seems to me that this would follow as a corollary: “Claims of deficiencies in climate science’s process or substance are not worth talking about, unless they are voiced by professional climate scientists.”

    (2) The remainder of your Response isn’t directed towards issues I have raised, here or elsewhere. Nor does it speak to any of the concerns noted by Brandon Shollenberger, supra. Here is one of the things that worries me, as a citizen and as a legitimate scientific skeptic (I’ve now awarded that moniker to myself!):

    “Mainstream climatologists are prone to accepting weak arguments and faulty arguments, if and only if they support the Pro-AGW Consensus.”

    Response: Your assertion is simply false. Writeups at Skeptical Science, albeit usually pretty good, are not always infallible and don’t serve as an authoritative voice for what climate scientists think.

    Non-scientists (in any field) can find ways to voice concerns with expertise in the field, it’s just far less likely to turn out to be right since they are not likely to be as well acquainted with the issues. There’s no example of a non-climate scientist who has raised any valid point concerning deficiencies in the science of AGW (or any scientist for that matter). Certainly SteveM has done some minor things (the correction of 1934 in the U.S temp. record) and I suppose one can think of numerous examples of this sort, but are these really fundamental to what we’re talking about?– chris

    • Chris

      You commented to AMac (November 10, 2010 at 4:01pm):

      There’s no example of a non-climate scientist who has raised any valid point concerning deficiencies in the science of AGW (or any scientist for that matter). Certainly SteveM has done some minor things (the correction of 1934 in the U.S temp. record) and I suppose one can think of numerous examples of this sort, but are these really fundamental to what we’re talking about?

      Well, Chris, in addition to “some minor things”, I’d say that “Steve M” also achieved one “major thing” in the statistical discrediting of the “Mann hockey stick”, as was later confirmed in testimony before US Congress by the Wegman committee (also “non-climate scientists”) and validated by the NAS panel (partly “climate scientists”), and has been documented in excruciating detail in Andrew Montford’s book, “The Hockey Stick Illusion”.

      Another “major thing” he has achieved with his Climate Audit blogsite is to open the discussion to include the voice of those who are rationally skeptical of the IPCC premise that AGW, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, has been a primary cause of past warming and that it represents a serious potential threat.

      Getting back to the topic here (Judith Curry on “dogma”), Dr. Curry has actually welcomed the opening up of the dialog to rational skeptics through blogsites such as Climate Audit, in order to provide more “transparency” in the climate debate and counteract what she refers to as the “IPCC dogma”.

      I would agree with her that this has been the result, and that this transparency has been positive for climate science in general. Would you disagree?

      Max

      Response: No. “Auditing” on blogs is not how science moves forward– chris

      • Manacker said:

        Well, Chris, in addition to “some minor things”, I’d say that “Steve M” also achieved one “major thing” in the statistical discrediting of the “Mann hockey stick”, as was later confirmed in testimony before US Congress by the Wegman committee (also “non-climate scientists”) and validated by the NAS panel (partly “climate scientists”), and has been documented in excruciating detail in Andrew Montford’s book, “The Hockey Stick Illusion”.</blockquote.

        Manacker I would forget all about Wegman and McIntyre now that their dishonest and shoddy analyses and reports have been exposed. See Deep Climate and the recent article in USA Today.

        http://deepclimate.org/2010/11/16/replication-and-due-diligence-wegman-style/

        http://www.usatoday.com/weather/climate/globalwarming/2010-11-21-climate-report-questioned_N.htm

      • Chris, sorry about the blockquote error.

      • Ian Forester commented (Nov. 21 at 9:34pm)

        I would forget all about Wegman and McIntyre now that their dishonest and shoddy analyses and reports have been exposed.

        The linked USA Today article is indeed relevant, providing solid support for claims of plagiarism (and other misconduct) made by DeepClimate and John Mashey about the Wegman Report. (I’ve been using terms like “alleged” and “seeming” — perhaps it’s time to drop those.)

        The article’s author also correctly points out

        The charges of plagiarism don’t negate one of the basic premises of the [Wegman] report — that climate scientists used poor statistics in two widely noted papers.

        .
        There’s much to be discussed about paleoclimate reconstructions — the report’s topic. However, the aggressive moderation policy at this blog makes it an unappealing venue for me. For example, Dr. Colose’s rebuttal of Brandon Shollenberger (Nov. 16 at 2:55am) paints Shollenberger as an uninformed rube, rather than as a civil and perceptive observer.

  10. Chris Colose:

    Most of my comment was directed at understanding who qualifies as a “legitimate scientific skeptic,” in your view. It seems that I correctly understood and paraphrased the gist of your position. (“There’s no example of a non-climate scientist who has raised any valid point concerning deficiencies in the science of AGW…”)

    > Response: Your assertion is simply false.

    You must be referring to my final point, “Mainstream climatologists are prone to accepting weak arguments …” — that’s the only assertion I made in the prior comment.

    If that claim is “simply false,” then there should be no instances that demonstrate it. I’ll offer two.

    1. Mainstream climatology’s handling of the weaknesses of the Mann et al (PNAS, 2008) multiproxy paleoclimate reconstruction paper, from the submission process through the current day. In particular, the response to the discovery of the authors’ mistaken use of the uncalibratable Tiljander data series as temperature proxies.

    2. Mainstream climatology’s handling of the “Divergence Problem” — a classic case of the pitfalls of following the unwitting application of post hoc reasoning with analysis and statistical treatment. This short comment illlustrates my view of the issue.

  11. Brandon Shollenberger

    The first thing I’d like to point out is placing excessive interjections into a comment can be a quick and easy way to respond, but it almost always leads to horrible communication. It is never at its worse than with things like this:

    Response: Sorry, I’m not convinced.

    This is nothing more than a complete dismissal of a point, phrased to sound reasonable. There is no attempt to dispute the point, to seek more information, or to communicate in any way. You make paragraphs with implied criticisms of people based upon vague impressions you have, yet you refuse to even consider a demonstrable point.

    Tell me. If I disagree with your characterization of Judith Curry and Steve McIntyre (and I do, greatly), what then? Clearly, being able to prove a point wouldn’t matter. You could simply dismiss anything out-of-hand, masking such with excessive interjections which give the illusion of substance.

    Perhaps you would be believable, except for your last response to me. Implicitly defending both the Tiljander and Jones’ example with nothing more than a hand-waving dismissal is insulting. You are willing to go on and on about why you dislike people like McIntyre, but you dismiss any actual points raised out-of-hand.

    Your bias is ridiculous.

    Response: How am I supposed to respond to assertions like “biases are well known to exist in the IPCC?” What does that even mean? Do you want me to go through a detailed psychological profile of every IPCC member? I’d much rather stick to the scientific conclusions they arrive at, which in fact many feel are pretty conservative.–chris

  12. AMac, could you provide links to the body of work in the peer-reviewed literature that point out the “weaknesses” in Mann et al, and to their “mistaken use of uncalibrated Tiljander data series” ?

    • JMurphy, to my knowledge there is no such body of work in the peer-reviewed literature. Nor is there likely to be, for a number of reasons.

      There is, however, plenty of insight that can be gleaned by scientifically-literate individuals who would like to judge the matter for themselves. The issues are straightforward and require no mathematics beyond simple logic. Here is a collection of links to relevant peer-reviewed literature and other academic sources (e.g. dissertations).

      • PolyisTCOandbanned

        I think the more fundamental issue might be that Mann seems to have acknowlegded the issue in the current SI for M09. Btw, I have a big problem for putting things like that in an SI and espeically for allowing the SI to morph after publication. Seems very “grey literature”. Not a data or something, but actual substantive stuff….really ought to be in a paper (archivd, blabla).

        The other problem is I’m not sure how substantive the issue is on a scientific basis.

        A good place to publish would be Climate of the Past Discussions.

        If you want to discuss more, do it at some blog, I will notice. Doubt I ever wander back ehre. I need an RSS reader. :(

  13. Brandon Shollenberger

    [edit]–you’re just rambling…

    Response: If you think the IPCC summary is unfair then explain why. If you have issues with Phil Jones then talk about them. To be honest, I’ve actually read the IPCC report, so I have an opinion on it and am unlikely to be swayed by personal opinions and complaints. I never talked about Phil Jones so I don’t know if you just created a bucket list of complaints and decided my site was the best place to throw them all out for people to see. Don’t come to my blog, tell me everything is unfair and indefensible (particularly when I never even discussed the things I allegedly “defended”), tell me to refute your arguments, then get mad at me when I don’t gracefully oblige with detailed points.– chris

  14. To get this sort of back on topic, Dr. Judith Curry recently discussed what she referred to as the “positive feedback loop” between climate science and policy and politics, including some thoughts on the impact of “Climategate”, errors in the IPCC reports, the protection of what she refers to as the “IPCC dogma”, the impact of the “blogosphere” and the role that climate scientists should play in the future to regain the credibility of climate science.
    http://judithcurry.com/2010/11/03/reversing-the-direction-of-the-positive-feedback-loop/

    Dr. Curry starts off with the following observation:

    Well, in the wake of Climategate, I have been trying to understand the crazy dynamics of climate science and policy and politics, and how things went so terribly wrong. I don’t think this is easily explained by any of the following explanations that are commonly put forth:
    - either too little or too much PR and activism/advocacy by climate scientists
    - the merchants of doubt and deniers won because of better PR and activism
    - the scientists are corrupt and politically (or financially) motivated

    What Dr. Curry has written on IPCC and “dogma” is there in black and white for all to read

    The advantages of dogma
    When I refer to the IPCC dogma, it is the religious importance that the IPCC holds for this cadre of scientists; they will tolerate no dissent, and seek to trample and discredit anyone who challenges the IPCC. Who are these priests of the IPCC? Some are mid to late career middle ranking scientists who have done ok in terms of the academic meritocracy. Others were still graduate students when they were appointed as lead authors for the IPCC. These scientists have used to IPCC to gain a seat at the “big tables” where they can play power politics with the collective expertise of the IPCC, to obtain personal publicity, and to advance their careers. This advancement of their careers is done with the complicity of the professional societies and the institutions that fund science. Eager for the publicity, high impact journals such as Nature, Science, and PNAS frequently publish sensational but dubious papers that support the climate alarm narrative.

    This is not the ranting of a right-wing ideologue or a denier of anthropogenic greenhouse warming. It is a sober assessment by a serious climate scientist of “what went wrong” as a result of the IPCC politicization of climate science in what she refers to

    a particularly toxic positive feedback loop between climate science and policy and politics, whose direction has arguably been reversed as result of Climategate

    Curry discusses the impact of the blogosphere as a way of opening communication on climate science and engaging with rational skeptics.

    She also expresses dismay at the IPCC’s loss of trust and stresses the importance of rebuilding this trust “through greater transparency and greater attention to uncertainties”.

    She writes:

    At some point, I decided that I could no longer in good faith support the IPCC and its assessments. At the moment, it seems that many regard me as the main problem.

    Any climate scientist who regards Dr. Curry “as the main problem”, simply pooh-poohs her assessment as irrelevant or defensively questions her ability to think clearly with respect to her claims is missing the point.

    Listen to what the lady is telling you, folks! (She’s not your enemy or adversary – she is one of you.)

    Max

    Response: I for one have never categorized her as “the enemy” or “a denier” or “the problem” or any of that. I do however, disagree with her on many aspects of climate science, particularly her expressed view on uncertainty in attribution, the significance of climategate, the “dogma” of the IPCC, etc. She has not formulated her thoughts together coherently on many of these issues, and it’s precisely that she is credentialized that allows her to receive the notice she has gotten– chris

  15. Chris,
    Quite apart from Climategate, I think that Judith Curry was really shaken by Andrew Montford’s book, with its detailing of bad science by Mann, and Wahl and Amman, and the IPCC breaking its own rules etc. It’s a big read, but I can’t say that I checked all of its 270 references. Judith has recommended that everyone read it.
    Have you Chris?

  16. So now we all have to do what Curry says? No.

    Why would Chris read some politically motivated book (written by an accountant) riddled with distortion and misinformation?

    Why would Chris read a book written by someone who frequently attacks climate scientists, and who supports others who attack scientists?

    Why would Chris read a book that has been debunked?

    Now we understand why such material would appeal to the uncritically minded, those unqualified to distinguish fact from fiction, those prone to believe in conspiracies, or those (Dunning-Krugers) who think they know better than the experts . It also tells people just what they desire/yearn to hear.

    “Skeptics”, have you actually applied some genuine critical thinking to (objective scientific analysis of) what Montford and others have been feeding you? Have you?

    Besides, the Montford’s book is mostly a summary of blog posts made at Climate”Audit”. So if Chris follows Climate”Audit”, then he has essentially been reading the book’s contents.

    Aaah, I remember the days way back when, when Climate”Audit” would at least attempt to do some partisan “auditing”…..

  17. Chris is so thoughtful and patient. So patient with his fine post on current topics being hijacked with denialism, and in particular the deniers’ number one fetish, Mike Mann and MBH98 and the Hockey Stick. It really is time for people in the climate field to take note of denialism as a recognizable sort of tactics with the object of avoiding a conclusion by endless obfuscation, see the link for details.

    What is usually being denied is a scientific finding that is not appreciated by business (or religion, but never mind that here). Often the denial takes a standard form:
    A. It isn’t happening.
    B. ( since not everyone will buy A) it is not our fault. [in the present case, the cause is anything but CO2]
    C. for added obfuscatory fun, argue ridiculously that anyway it will be beneficial or at least not harmful.

    B is the main defense here. The cause of observed warming is the sea, the sun, the wind, ENSO, … but in all these cases it is *just a natural variation*.

    Along came MBH98 with the devastating graph, soon to be known as The Hockey Stick. The Hockey Stick says in a single swoop It is happening and There is no natural variation that looks like this. Deniers are wrong.

    Yeah we all know, the Hockey Stick by itself doesn’t prove whatever, attribution is really another matter etc etc. We also know that barring a very unexpected new discovery, the message of the dreaded graph written on the wall is deniers are wrong. The deniers certainly feel it. No matter what they say, it burns with a burn that will not stop.

    Hockey sticks, hockey sticks, hockey sticks everywhere you look, from tropical mountain tops to the cold ocean bottom. It’s hockey sticks all the way down.

    Commenters here know that MBH98 was a great breakthrough. They know that although a slightly suboptimal statistical method was used on part of the data, it made no material difference. They know that we now have much more data, and that various statistical methods have been tried, and you keep getting hockey sticks. For obfuscation, object to certain tree ring proxies. Oops! without them it is still a hockey stick. Without tree rings at all it is still a hockey stick, based now on a plethora of new data that MBH didn’t have back in ’98.

    Yet there is a permanent war against Mike Mann, the lead author of the First Paper. The attack includes, along with endless defamation, the slickly cooked up “refutation” by deniers M&M05, the Congressional attack by Rep. Joe Barton and academic accomplices, the demands made by Coal State attorney general Cuccinelli (thrown out by the judge as baseless) and the promise of a new Congressional witch hunt in a few months. The deniers will not rest until they exact retribution for being made to look like fools, but the Hockey Stick will burn them forever.

    Meanwhile back in nature, some warming feedbacks are running ahead of predictions. Arctic sea ice volume anyone? Amazon drought anyone? Coincidence or not, this is not good. The climate problem facing all of us is much too serious to waste time currying deniers. Every effort must be made to start reducing the damage.

  18. Bob_RJ, Why should Chris take time away from his good work to read a book already advertised as a recitation of denier shibboleths? Here’s an alternative suggestion: you might read up on these things at Real Climate. Indeed RC has a discussion of Montford’s book.

  19. I have to say that I inevitably find the sort of discussions Curry carries on totally confusing. The IPCC has one role and one role only, which is to summarize the technical literature – it is not presenting its own research. The only metric under which it can be judged is whether it accurately summarizes what has been published. It is not as though Curry (or anyone else, for that matter) has pointed to some paper or papers published in a scientific journal and made a claim that it is neglected. Therefore, if there is an issue, it is not with the IPCC.

    If Curry can point to published, peer-reviewed papers (not books or blog postings) that support the contention that climate sensitivity is low, she can please by all means let us know what they are.

    Now I see in this thread the claim that the scientific literature itself is biased. This is very, very much harder to support. There are many, many reputable journals in climate science (as in all sciences) and the failure of a paper to get published anywhere is without a doubt a sign that it is wrong. McI & McK was published in a reputable journal, and it was discussed at length in the technical literature and by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences. Linden and Choi get their papers published. It isn’t reasonable to assume that there’s some sort of grand conspiracy that prevents correct papers from being published.

    Given these obvious points, I don’t understand why anyone serious pays attention to Curry. Even to the point of writing about her on this blog.

  20. *still* too nice to the mining CEO and fraud Steve McIntyre.

    First of all, all that happened was data sets from GISS were integrated with another data set, and they had not yet gotten around to reconciling the data sets, which had DIFFERENT BASELINES. Pricks like McIntyre fight in their far-right way against funding for climate science, and expect climate scientists nonetheless to do everything immediately everywhere. This is part of their anti-science crusade, generally (the same bullshit from his gang that mothballed Triana – which could have settled virtually all the big questions definitively – even after it was built and paid for).

    And McIntyre lied about it. He said James Hansen was claiming 1998 was the warmest year on record for the area affected by the datasets and that in reality it was 1934. First of all, I’d gotten an environmental mailing in 2000 that quoted James Hansen saying 1934 was the warmest record in the contiguous 48 states followed by 1998. I saw other documents quoting him to that effect from not long before McIntyre started lying about him. McIntyre’s rationale was apparently that Hansen must oversee every transaction at NASA that involved data – which made the mismatched temperature anomalies a “claim” and moreover, Hansen’s claim. Then McIntyre attempted to conflate the contiguous 48 states with the world temperature. Despite the fact that, when you make that claim, 1934 is not hotter than 1998. Which McIntyre also lied about.

    Without McIntyre, the datasets would have been reconciled, almost certainly within the year, anyway – oh, and by the way, they were saying the same thing, just with different baselines – it was a list of temperature ANOMALIES. It was never clear to me whether McIntyre was simply too scientifically illiterate to remember that or just hopeful his many dupes were.

    So even there, McIntyre’s contribution was negative. He jumped on a routine issue where he was not needed at all, and used it as a springboard to spread lies and tie up the time of the people doing the data coordination and question the value of their work.

    Test this for yourself, you denialist poser-skeptics here defending McIntyre:

    Did you know:

    1. that 1934 and 1998 were virtually identical in temperature for the contiguous lower 48?
    2. that the issue was an integration of a data set with a different baseline – due to a cost-saving consolidation of divisions?
    3. That James Hansen had said publicly and repeatedly that 1934 was hotter in the contiguous 48 United States than 1998, albeit only by a miniscule amount?
    4. that 1998 was a hotter year than 1934 worldwide?

    Of course not. You learned the opposite from McIntyre. And that’s his sole, undebunked contribution to the debate so far.

    I also find it amazing that you’d defend someone who did a coordinated DOS attack on people trying to collect scientific data, the centerpiece of which was a demand for data that wasn’t even theirs, and which he moreover had gotten from the original source and been keeping for 3 years without telling you, the dupes, he had it.

    • nice to see you allow charges of fraud to stand on your page chris. I hold you to the same standards I hold Mcintyre to. He doesnt allow the use of this type of charge. why do you.

      Response: Funny, I very rarely read CA, but when I do my head starts to hurt rather quickly from all the jabs on “the team” and all the ploys they conjur up. In any case, I am not heavy on moderation, so people are free to say what they want, as long as it doesn’t become a ‘trolling-fest’ of repetitious nonsense or vulgar language. You are free to correct people on their claims if you wish– chris

  21. “Well, Chris, in addition to “some minor things”, I’d say that “Steve M” also achieved one “major thing” in the statistical discrediting of the “Mann hockey stick”, as was later confirmed in testimony before US Congress by the Wegman committee (also “non-climate scientists”). ”

    That’s a little ridiculous don’t you think? Wegman is being investigated for plagarism and deepclimate has shown that he pretty much copied Steve M’s work and you call that confirmation?

    Response– Among all the “discrediting” to the hockey stick, there is still not a better reconstruction out there. It is still the general picture reproduced by several other studies, and there’s still no robust evidence to get rid of it in authoritative documents like the AR4 or NAS documents, etc.– chris

  22. The “hockey stick” was thoroughly discredited (by M+M, the Wegman committee and then the NAS panel), as the record shows and as has been documented in excruciating detail in Andrew Montford’s
    book.

    That much is history.

    The “spaghetti copy hockey sticks” are also questionable, since many use the same cherry-picked data used for the original.

    John Mashey’s attempt to discredit Wegman has nothing to do with this (the attempt will most likely fail anyway).

    Several historical records as well as independent paleoclimate studies using different methodologies from all over the world have shown that there was a global MWP, which was slightly warmer than today and a global LIA, which was cooler than today.

    This robust evidence has clearly demonstrated that the IPCC claim that “the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1,300 years” is incorrect (and should be corrected in the next IPCC assessment report). Let’s hope IPCC steps up to the plate and corrects this error.

    Max

  23. Hey Guys

    Bob_FJ is right.

    If you have not read Andrew Montford’s book on the “hockey stick” scam, you are not fully informed. Don’t stick your heads in the sand and become “deniers”!

    Max

  24. To state that auditing science on blogs is ‘not how science is done’ raises the question of, ‘says who?’.
    I am not aware of a handbook or international court of science that has ruled on this.
    There is tradition and habit. There is institutional and personal self-interest. But there is no rule.
    And for your rationalization of using ‘denier’, you sound disturbingly like the racists I knew of growing up in the South in the 1960′s discussing why this black person was a ‘good one’ but that sob is a real ‘ni**er’.
    I think for an amazing number of the allegedly enlightened in the climate community ‘denier’ is just a politically correct way to call people you do not like ‘ni**er’. A handy dandy term to end discussion, dehumanize those you do not like, and claim superiority. In reality it just shows how limited you are.
    The fact is your community sold the world, at great expense, the idea that CO2 was going to drive the world’s climate into a major catastrophe.
    Well, look out your window: it ain’t happening.
    And until you guys admit you were wrong and figure out why, you are going to continue to have to put up with the ‘deniers’ calling you out.

  25. Hunter

    I believe when Chris made that comment to me about “auditing science on blogs”, he was referring to Steve McIntyre and ClimateAudit.

    This was a bit off of our topic of discussion, since I had actually corrected his earlier statement that SteveM had not contributed anything significant to climate science by pointing to his tireless and successful attempt to statistically discredit the Mann et al. “hockey stick” (as later confirmed by the Wegman committee and the NAS panel before US Congress) as a “significant contribution”.

    Since Chris changed the subject, I didn’t see any point in rebutting his statement and just let it go.

    But I’d agree with you that the blogosphere is becoming more and more important in the exchange of information in the ongoing scientific and political debate surrounding climate change.

    This debate is obviously still wide open and much more alive and vibrant here (thanks to Chris, SteveM and others who run blogsites) than in the mainstream media, for example, where we only hear that “the science is settled” and “it’s time to act”, with a rare interspersed “denier” report saying it’s all hokum and a scam.

    Max

  26. Chris,
    I think you and Fred Moolten have presented a fairly objective and accurate assessment of the ‘dogma and ideology’ problem that plagues the global climate change problem. Some of it may well be just semantics. In some sense I amy be very “dogmatic” in my thinking that everything in this universe is explainable by the laws of physics, and only by the laws of physics. However, I consider myself to be objective rather than dogmatic. This is because there is a reality that is based in objective observation/experiment, along with mathematical logic, which provides the basis and rationale to support my point of view.

    There is no such objective basis that can be defined for religion or politics. Their set of principles and beliefs (their dogma), which may be established on the basis of some real world experience, is basically a house of cards which must be maintained by the efforts of a dedicated cadre of priests and thought police, otherwise the ideology might collapse, as was the case with Soviet communism. It seems to me that large part of the public is accustomed to think about climate science in the same way as they think about their religion or politics. Hence, the conclusions drawn by climate scientists regarding the cause and scope of the ongoing climate change are received with a mixture of alarm and disbelief, and are being perceived as the formation of some new “dogma” that is threatening their currently held beliefs. Thus, in religion and politics, dogma is a real and appropriate concept. There is a clear grouping into the believers in the dogma, and the deniers who do not believe the stated dogma, and there are of course the skeptics who either don’t know what to believe, or simply don’t care.

    In science the situation is different because there is an underlying and very dependable authority – nature, that provides the correct answer in the appropriate measurement or experiment is performed, and is correctly interpreted. At one point or tother, I might have been skeptical whether protons and neutrons are really made up of quarks, whether quantum entanglement is real, or wether dark matter and dark energy really exist. But my skepticism was never of the type that “It can’t possible be true!” Rather, it was more like intrigue, “What observational evidence is there that compels one to come to such bewildering conclusions?”

    Bottom line. “Dogma” is not really a term that is descriptive or appropriate is scientific discourse. Those individuals who have difficulty in believing what climate science is saying, and who want to consider themselves as “skeptics”, they should be asking questions along the lines of “What observational evidence is there that compels the conclusions that climate scientists are describing?” If they wish to take the position that “It ain’t so!”, then they need to present physical evidence to back up their argument. That is the way science works.

    By and large, I think that a large fraction of the climate bloggers who like to think of themselves as “skeptics”, are more in the category of “deniers”, because they present no physical basis or reasons for their skepticism, in which case they are simply expressing an opinion, which is not that different from opinions coming from creationists, flat earthers, or lunar landing deniers.

    Scientifically, I think that posting statements on climate blogs is a waste of time. I remain (extremely) skeptical that anything that I say on a climate blog will actually change somebody’s mind that there really is ongoing global warming and that humans are causing it.

    On the other hand, global warming is not just a topic of academic interest where public opinion skewed by climate denier propaganda can be safely ignored. Global climate is changing. And fossil fuel burning is definitely intensifying the greenhouse effect to drive the global temperature to ever higher values. Ultimately, there will need to be a public decision to actually do something to counteract global warming, so the public forum cannot be left to climate deniers to continue bamboozling public opinion.

    In another decade, the global temperature will have risen by another 0.2 C, there will be accelerated melting of polar ice, and there will be more extreme drought, heat, and flood events. To these the public will begin to pay more heed (as opposed to pronouncements from climate scientist), and in the not too distance future, the public mood will swing from skepticism to “Why isn’t anybody doing something about global warming?”

    • A Lacis,
      You have no way to know that in a decade temps will be up 0.2oC, and you especially have no idea that if it did go up it would lead to significant impacts on people or the larger environment. Except by faith.
      Ditto on polar ice (I assume you mean Arctic, since the Antarctic is declining to melt).
      All you have is a faith based assertion that supports climate catastrophism, your chosen religion.

  27. @A Lacis

    I do not have any real statistics on this (and I doubt whether you do), but you may be correct when you write:

    By and large, I think that a large fraction of the climate bloggers who like to think of themselves as “skeptics”, are more in the category of “deniers”, because they present no physical basis or reasons for their skepticism, in which case they are simply expressing an opinion, which is not that different from opinions coming from creationists, flat earthers, or lunar landing deniers.

    This group may certainly represent “a fraction” (possibly even a “large fraction”, as you surmise), but there is also the “other fraction”, who present scientific objections relating to the great “uncertainties” in the so-called ” mainstream” (or IPCC) view that “AGW, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, has been responsible for a major part of recent warming, and that it represents a serious potential threat to humanity”.

    This fraction is more of a “thorn in the side” to the fervent “mainstream” supporters, so they apparently find it best to use the “ad hom” approach of writing them off as “deniers”, “flat earthers” or “religious crackpots”, rather than to address the specific scientific issues they raise.

    In so doing, the fervent “mainstream” supporters become the “dogmatists”.

    And this is precisely the point that Dr. Judith Curry has made.

    It would behoove the “mainstream” supporters to read and heed Curry’s words, because the “ad hom” approach is not working.

    Response: But simply not true. When real skepticism comes around, it gets addressed and evaluated (see Lindzen’s multiple attempts at arguing for a low climate sensitivity in journal papers, which have probably generated a dozen or more peer-reviewed articles). The problem is that the denial industry cannot handle the fact that the science is strong on one side, and the people denying AGW just don’t have a case anymore, nor do those who argue for a very low sensitivity. It’s even hard to define what a real ‘skeptic’ is anymore in this context, since these are far and few, so most of what we have to deal with is utter crap. — chris

    Max

  28. Curry’s blog is just flypaper to blogosphere-resident deniers. Its value is in the same range as WFTWT.

    Response: While I agree about the flypaper, Judith Curry (despite some odd ideas she has) is actually knowledgable about climate science and does not post relentless swarms of disinformation. She is in a completely different arena than Watts.–chris

    • You are not really paying attention at all.

    • Now that you’ve expressed exasperation at the continuing presence of Oliver Manuel and Jeff Glassman over at Curry’s blog, have you reconsidered your “different arena” assessment?

      That’s the big problem with Curry’s “open minded” approach – a tremendous amount of crap and repetition of denier memes gets through. Not to mention a very unevenly applied moderation policy.

  29. @Chris

    A tip: try not to get emotional. Do not put the views of those who are rationally skeptical of the dangerous AGW premise (which you personally, plus a majority of “mainstream” climate scientists, espouse) into the box of “utter crap” generated by the “denial industry” – it does not help your cause.

    Admit (as Curry has done) that there are great “uncertainties” in the scientific data supporting this premise (specifically with relation to the 2xCO2 climate sensitivity), which still need to be resolved.

    The hypothesis (that AGW, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, has been the primary cause of past warming and that it represents a serious potential threat) has yet to be validated by empirical data. It has yet to successfully withstand falsification attempts. As a result, Chris, it is still an “uncorroborated hypothesis”, with a considerable amount of “uncertainty” in its supporting science. Simply saying that this is not so does not change this basic fact, Chris.

    This is essentially what Curry is telling you. It does not help you or anyone to get “dogmatic”.

    Work the science instead (and forget the name calling).

    Max

  30. Every time climate catastrophists use ‘denier’ and ‘denialist’ to denigrate skeptics, they simply show themselves to be no different than nasty little racists. I can understand the frustration- the catastrophists have a strong faith based on ancient storylines of placating the great god with sacrifice and mollifying his anger with sacrifice and even have a devil to blame.
    But you claim to be above that.
    The failure of eugenics did not disprove evolutionary science. The failure of climate catastrophism does not require the falsification of greenhouse gas physics.

  31. A little upthread, Manacker makes an important point at Dec. 4 at 3:51pm about the distinction between those “skeptics” who are reflexively or dogmatically opposed to the Consensus view of AGW, and those who are scientifically literate, and whose skepticism can be traced to objections that are firmly within the scientific tradition.

    Chris Colose responded, “But simply not true.”

    This stance is, itself, “simply not true.”

    Indeed, this comment thread circles back on itself. I made a similar point on Nov. 10 at 4:01pm, to which Chris Colose replied

    “Your assertion is simply false. ”

    My rebuttal of Nov. 11 at 7:13am was based on the logical notion that “simply false” and “simply not true” are wide-ranging, categorical hypotheses that are powerful because they are subject to falsification. In particular, they can be challenged by the presentation of clear-cut anecdotes (if any exist). I offered two. (A third has come up since, in the form of the special treatment given to O’Donnel et al’s response to Steig et al’s Antarctic temperature paper.)

    Chris Colose and the other advocates of the pro-AGW Consensus did not choose to “get into the weeds” and discuss either example. That is fine — of course. And that stance weakens the “simply not true” argument — of course.

    My own view is that what is “simply true” about climatology is that it is not a privileged area of scientific inquiry, and is thus prone to the same problems and shortcomings that plague other disciplines. Climatology, unfortunately, has an unusually poor track record of handling these issues, for a variety of reasons. Some are noble, others are not.

    I could expand on this concept and chase down some relevant links from pro-Consensus commenters, but I will not. Given the uneven and sometimes-aggressive moderation policy here, I’ve no assurance this comment will see the light of day, and so I’m disinclined to spend more effort on it.

    This represents one of the subtler ways that pro-AGW Consensus advocates and scientists limit their exposure to the full range of ideas worth considering. That’s too bad. After all, as Steve Mosher never tires of saying, physical reality and thus “the science” “is what it is”, notwithstanding whatever “Consensus advocates” or “skeptics” write in blogs or in the peer-reviewed literature.

  32. A bit after the fair, but it never ceases to amaze me that people who are posting as guests and at the courtesy of a blog owner get incensed if the blog owner sticks to their guns, doesn’t agree with them, points out errors in their arguments, or otherwise violates the shibboleths of the commenter. It seems to me that Chris Colose has been more than courteous here. He also appears to know a great deal about the subject and a few others here have made useful and literate summaries of real information.

    The claim that the “hockey stick” has been discredited and any attempt to show that it is still largely (as a metaphor, which is all it ever was) correct demonstrates ignorance is indeed nonsensical and displays the scientific limitations of the person pushing that opinion. I am not a scientist, but as an artist I am fascinated that because the “handle” has a kink in it representing the medieval warm period the science that it is used to illustrate is supposed to be discredited. Noone is allowed to do any science in case there might be an occasional need for correction. But the Bartons and Cuccinellis can go to town and noone checks out their credentials. Skepticism, real skepticism, is not so narrow.

    This is the obvious difference between real skepticism and the fake variety displayed by the denialati. It is one-sided. Threats and hissy fits are also not the weapons used by open-minded people.

    Insistence that Montford’s book is as useful as, say, Chris Mooney’s books Republican War on Science, recently enlarged and updated by Naomi Oreskes in Merchants of Doubt, also shows more about the pusher than the target. Schneider’s Science as a Contact Sport is a good study for those truly interested in what the IPCC is and did. I’d rather scientists did their work than plough through a political polemic short on factchecking and long on single-minded attempts to distract from real work that needs to be done.

    The “weather” out your window (I do hope that window includes the whole planet and doesn’t skip time, which includes summer – already forgotten) is making climate change due to global warming more and more obvious. When exceptional events pile up within days rather than years and centuries, things are noticeably awry. Ridiculing the obvious connection between extreme Arctic melt, increasing water vapor, loss of multi-year ice and colder weather to the south is easy but it is simply wrong.

  33. I too am late to the discussion. But I think this must be said.

    Back on Nov. 19, “manacker” quotes Dr. Judith Curry as follows: “Well, in the wake of Climategate, I have been trying to understand the crazy dynamics of climate science and policy and politics, and how things went so terribly wrong.”

    Dr. Curry’s implicit assumptions here are that the whole of climate science and policy, involving thousands of scientists as well as numerous governments, has (to use a slang expression) gone off the rails — but ClimateGate (better named SwiftHack) is a meritorious exposure of this fact.

    Both assumptions are mistaken.

    Manacker provides a longer quote from Dr. Curry:

    When I refer to the IPCC dogma, it is the religious importance that the IPCC holds for this cadre of scientists; they will tolerate no dissent, and seek to trample and discredit anyone who challenges the IPCC. Who are these priests of the IPCC? Some are mid to late career middle ranking scientists who have done ok in terms of the academic meritocracy. Others were still graduate students when they were appointed as lead authors for the IPCC. These scientists have used to IPCC to gain a seat at the “big tables” where they can play power politics with the collective expertise of the IPCC, to obtain personal publicity, and to advance their careers. This advancement of their careers is done with the complicity of the professional societies and the institutions that fund science. Eager for the publicity, high impact journals such as Nature, Science, and PNAS frequently publish sensational but dubious papers that support the climate alarm narrative.

    “This,” manacker maintains, “is not the ranting of a right-wing ideologue or a denier of anthropogenic greenhouse warming. It is a sober assessment by a serious climate scientist of ‘what went wrong’ as a result of the IPCC politicization of climate science…”

    I will grant the truth of the first sentence. But “sober assessment”? Not hardly. Labeling the IPCC’s output religious dogma, and saying that its scientists tolerate no dissent, that they “trample and discredit anyone who challenges the IPCC,” is quite simply absurd. Where is Dr. Curry’s evidence of such suppression? It is absent. Her own continued posting puts the lie to her claim.

    Why would a scientist of Dr. Curry’s caliber take such a position? It is a mystery to me. But her position is clear, and clearly untenable.

    What’s equally distressing is that so many people interpret her position as having some relation to reality. Judith Curry has done a lot of good work in climate science. Yet it must be said: It is not climate science, but her current position, that has “gone off the rails.”

  34. Dr. Jay Cadbury, phd.

    @Chris Colose
    Well I am glad to see I can post here without my comment having to await moderation. I’ll detail my reasons I think global warming is a hoax for you and then you can rebut me.

    Al Gore fires Dr. Will Happer-this strikes me as an underhanded political move.
    1988-James Hansen testifies to congress about the dangers of global warming during the summer. The A/C is turned off and the windows are opened to make the room hotter. This is dubious to me.
    Currently, we are below earth’s average GAT and earth’s average atmospheric co2 content. I don’t see how 380ppm is such a dangerous level. Do you think it is testable? I think the only way to accurately test this notion would be to find another planet, similar to earth and have a level of 380ppm or higher.
    Are you familiar with Don Easterbrook? He recently made a post at wuwt about the past 10,500 years. He concluded 86.6% of the past 10,500 years were warmer than 2010. Shortly thereafter, a post appeared entitled “Easterbrook wrong again” the author claimed he contacted Dr. Richard Alley to confirm his analysis. I emailed Dr. Happer both articles and he said Easterbrook was “basically right” and that the other post was a “typical rebuttal piece”. I have these email exchanges if you would like to see them.

    Thank you for not running your site like realclimate and tamino so that I can actually explain why I do not believe the AGW theory. I look forward to your response.

    • > I emailed Dr. Happer both articles and he said

      Yeah. You know whom to trust, don’t you?

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      Jay,

      I really shouldn’t try and refute you, seeing as your intellect and ability to evaluate evidence is clearly superior to mine, but here goes anyway…

      1. The Happer thing appears to be canard. The first mention I was able to find of it was on 12/22/2008 on Inhofe’s EPW Committee site. It was immediately picked up by Climate Depot and has echoed around the intertubes since then. Happer’s bio page on Wikipedia (not authoritative, I know) mentions that he left the DOE in 1993, but only says “to return to Princeton”. Looking at this it would appear that he held a politically appointed position and so left as part of the standard housecleaning which occurs with any change of administration.

      2. You are wrong on this, the windows were closed. But this was a bit of theater engineered by the senate committee holding the hearing (I believe it was the senate, he also testified before the house on this same occasion) so you cannot blame it on Hansen. In fact I’m sure he would have preferred to have the A/C on!

      3. Easterbrook’s recent screed has been debunked in more places on the net than I can recall. See here and here for two of the most useful debunkings. He made two mistakes. First, GISP2 is not the world and second 1855 is not the present, so he ignores 155 years of subsequent warming. And Happer really doesn’t have anything useful to say about this. If you had emailed it to the researcher who developed the analysis, that would be Richard Alley, he would have told you Easterbrook was wrong. But then the person for such a judgement is always someone who works in a different area which is completely unrelated, right?

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      I forgot item 4…

      Current temperature is quite high for this interglacial period and most evidence points to it going 1C – 2C higher. This will make the earth globally warmer than at anytime in holocene. You know the holocene? It’s the period of time when humans developed agriculture by domesticating useful plants, built cities, developed civilization, that sort of stuff. In fact a couple of degrees would make it warmer than it has been since before our species evolved. I don’t know what this means in terms of impacts, but do you really want to take that chance?

      As far a CO2 levels, we are currently at levels which have not been seen for hundreds of thousands and possibly as many as 15,000,000 years when temperature is estimated to have been several degrees warmer and sea levels several meters higher. Our ability to deal with this should be fine, but it will be very, very expensive. An economic sinkhole if you will.

  35. Dr. Jay Cadbury, phd.

    Oh dear,
    It appears I spoke to soon. Comment is awaiting moderation. Sigh.

    Response: Yes, your criticisms were devastating. Everyone who ever studied clmatology for decades might as well just quit right now– chris

  36. Dr. Jay Cadbury, phd.

    Wow Chris it appears that the cat really got your tongue here. The sound of your silence is so sweet.

  37. Geoff Sherrington

    You know, I think that the only real moral crime that one man can commit against another is the attempt to create, by his words or actions, an impression of the contradictory, the impossible, the irrational, and thus shake the concept of rationality in his victim

    Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, 1957, p. 488.

  38. The trouble with most self-styled “skeptics” is that they are so certain they are correct.

    I’m a skeptic, simply because I find it hard to believe that our current rate of warming could continue, or even increase. If it does, I’ll be surprised.

    However, I do not have the expertise to seriously question the science that goes into predictions of warming. Indeed, given that there has been plenty of warming in the last 20+ years, it looks quite likely that the mainstream climate science is correct – but I still find it hard to believe.

    I do have the expertise to question many of the less sophisticated “skeptic” arguments. Given that many “skeptics” argue passionately for something they don’t understand, they can only be driven by reasons other than a search for truth. Many “skeptics”, like, for example, his lordship, deliberately seek to mislead, so they must be reasonably sure that their own arguments are not correct. Putting all the erroneous and emotive stuff in their arguments would be so unnecessary – if only they were right in the first place.

    Of course, its a lot like a football game. Those of us without enough ability to be out there playing stand on the sidelines and barrack for our team.

  39. Martin Lewitt

    Chris,

    But it is dogma for the IPCC to present model projections without adjustments for the model diagnostic literature, as if they were true believers that the range of sensitivities in the models bracketed reality. The correlated errors that were documented in the literature known at the time of the AR4 and explicitly pointed out to working group 1 authors, would make that unconscionable even in a linear system, and we are dealing with a nonlinear system. As a participant in the Working Group I process, it was clear that the authors were not subject to peer review.

    You might argue that they had to have something to show for years of research, well it is just as important to know what we don’t know, and the diagnostic literature represented great progress in that regard. They should not published the climate projections, or at least not expressed any confidence that the related to the actual climate.

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